New Audio: World Renowned Trip Hop Pioneer Tricky Debuts New Musical Project, Skilled Mechanics

Born in Bristol and currently based in Berlin, director, vocalist, emcee, actor and musician Tricky is arguably one of most influential pioneers of trip-hop both as a member of renowned trip-hop collective Massive Attack and as a solo artist. And throughout his lengthy career, the Bristol-born and Berlin-based artist has a long-held reputation for being uncompromisingly difficult to pigeonhole as his work possess elements of American and British hip-hop, rock, dub, reggae, and punk rock. He’s also been known for a lengthy list of collaborations with renowned artists including Terry Hall, Bjork, Gravediggaz, Grace Jones, Live, PJ Harvey, and others.

After the release of 2014’s Adrian Thaws, Tricky relocated to Berlin and quickly began work on his latest musical project, Skilled Mechanics. As the internationally renowned artist explained in press notes, the project takes its name “from a documentary about espionage. There was an ex-C.I.A. agent on this programme speaking about assassins who were sent abroad by the US to start revolutions and topple governments. He called them ‘skilled mechanics.’ I thought that was a great name for someone who was a killer basically. The name was so dark and cynical it just stuck with me.”

Conventionally speaking, when a known solo artist forms a band, its frequently considered a sign that the solo artist in question is sick of the spotlight and wants to fade into something much larger than themselves but for someone as iconoclastic as Tricky, the exact opposite is true. As the story goes, over the years people have voiced frustration over what they perceive as his habit of playing second fiddle to his variety of female collaborators. “People have been asking me for years, ‘Will you ever take charge vocally? Will you ever lead as the singer on one of your albums?’  On Adrian Thaws, my last album, I came to the forefront vocally. I was more in your face on three of the tracks but I wanted to build even further towards a catalogue of songs where I didn’t rely on a girl singer. But I realised it would be hard to do under the name Tricky because people would always associate that name with me using a female singer. I haven’t been alone at the front of the stage on my own since before I released my first album Maxinquaye 20 years ago. I needed to change. It is good to change and to keep on pushing yourself,” Tricky explained in press notes.

His idea was that Skilled Mechanics would be a loose collaborative project that would allow him to work with a variety of artists while pushing his unique vocals to the forefront as much as possible. The project’s earliest collaborators including DJ Milo, who is not only one of Tricky’s oldest friends but also the first person the Bristol-born, Berlin-based artist ever recorded with, as well as his introduction to The Wild Bunch sound system, which eventually evolved into Massive Attack. The other early collaborator on the project is Luke Harris, who is the drummer in Tricky’s backing band — but as a vocalist. As the story goes, Harris’ vocal talents were discovered by complete accident: Harris was covering for Tricky’s regular vocalist Francesca Belmonte during a quick bathroom break during soundcheck. Tricky was so impressed by Harris that he asked him to take part in his next musical project.
Skilled Mechanics’ debut effort Tricky Presents: Skilled Mechanics is slated for a January 22, 2016 release through False Idols Records and !K7 Records and features collaborations with Oh Land, Ann Dao, Ivy 艾菲, Francesca Belmonte, Renata Platon, and Xdare. But interestingly, the album’s first single “Diving Away” is a reworking/cover of Porno for Pyros‘ “Porpoise Head.” The original, which is based around a traditional rock arrangement of electric guitar, bass guitar and drums feels like a dreamy, psychedelic-tinged waltz — and the Skilled Mechanics version retains the dreamy, psychedelic feel; however, their version turns the song into a lullaby with a fucked up, ominous tone at its core. Much like  Grimm fairy tale, you know that something unforgivably brutal is lurking.